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Going Beyond California Rolls
So, you haven’t tried sushi before. Understandable. If you grow up thinking that fish is something caught in Lake Michigan, a muddy river or farm pond, then I can understand why cooking seems to be an integral part of eating fish. That’s why you don’t see catfish as a type of sushi. (At least I haven’t seen it. Maybe there are some redneck sushi places that serve raw catfish and sunfish with Tabasco and a Stag beer.)
Still, even if you can get past your preconceived notions, how will you know which kind to try? If you are talking up a girl and she knows sushi, it’s the perfect opening to offer to buy her dinner if she picks out your sushi for you. If she just orders the westernized California Roll (rice, avocado, cucumber and real or imitation crab) then you’ve got it easy on both the palate and the wallet. On the other hand she could order you uni (sea urchin – which has the consistency and look of snot, but my opinion is based on the fact that the girl that introduced me to sushi hated uni) that may be tough to choke down. Just to be sure that you don’t go in totally blind, here’s a little primer.
Know Your Sushi
Unagi (Freshwater eel): This is the kind of sushi that I think most anyone would find tasty, as it is one of the cooked kinds of sushi. (Often I see it heated in a toaster oven.) It is also covered in a sweet sauce made of rice wine, sugar, soy sauce and eel bones.
Toro (Tuna): You’ve probably had tuna steak, tuna tartare or seared tuna appetizers at some point and realize how tasty it is when it is nearly raw. So, sushi is just that next step. It’s a firm meat with a rich red color.
Spicy Tuna: Speaking of tuna tartare, this is just a blend of raw tuna and spices and usually used in conjunction with many different rolls.
Shiro maguro (Albacore): A kind of tuna, when it is served as sushi, I usually see it topped with a vinegar sauce and scallions. To make it easier to work with, it is grilled quickly and immersed in ice water.
Masago (Smelt Roe): Masago is often used as a garnish on rolls and is bright orange in color. However, you can also order it as sushi and the little eggs kind of pop in your mouth when you chew them like a savory pop rock.
Sake (Salmon): Sake is also orange in color, but much more muted than Masago. While it is a longtime favorite of mine, I’ve been on a bad streak with salmon lately, and looking at the Seafood Watch information on salmon, maybe it’s because I should be avoiding wild caught California salmon.
Hotate (Scallop): A wonderful sweet shellfish that is served whole or chopped and served spicy. You’ve probably enjoyed scallops grilled at many restaurants and trust me, the sushi version is just as tasty as the grilled one.
As far as ‘condiments’ go, I’ve talked with sushi chefs who frown on using soy sauce mixed with wasabi on your sushi. On the other hand, every sushi place I go to seems to include some sort of little bowl for your soy sauce and wasabi mixture. I have started to just use the wasabi by itself to spice up my sushi and add a different flavor. However, it is much easier to apply wasabi if you just dip your sushi into your soy sauce mixture with the wasabi diluted to your taste.
Other kinds of sushi include easily recognizable shrimp and crab that you’re more than likely familiar with eating, so if you need a safety, those are always available, as well as the rolls (like the often referred to California Roll) that are associated with them. If you do feel a little more adventurous, look for the above fishes in rolls and see how the chefs combine the flavors. Sometimes that’s where you find the tastiest concoctions. Happy eating.